Physician Salaries Vary Widely Among Academics

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , April 5, 2012

The MGMA report shows that physician compensation in academic settings is behind that of doctors in private practice, as "is customary," Tamir says. Family practitioners in academic settings reported median compensation of $173,801, compared with $189,402 in private practice.

Specialists in academic settings also were behind physician earnings in private practice, according to the report. Anesthesiologists earned $326,000 in median compensation in academic settings, compared to $407,292 in private practice. General surgeons in academic settings earned $297,260 in median compensation, compared to $343,958 in private practice.

"Salaries in academic practices will always be lower than that of salaries in private practices," Tamir said in a statement. "Physicians in private practices concentrate their effort on providing clinical care to patients, while physicians in academic practices split their efforts between clinical care and research activities. These research activities are never as well compensated as clinical care." 

Despite what many people may think, generally "physicians are not going into (the profession) for the money," Tamir says. "If you want to go into big finance, you go to Wall Street and law school, where there's more immediate bang for your buck," he says. "Physicians don't start earning money, for the most part, until they are in their 30s, and they have loans to pay off." There are many years where doctors have to "catch up," he says.

If the downward pressure on physician salaries continues, catching up is bound to take even longer.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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